Followers, Seekers and Owners
# 1: Fans or Followers?
Are there any baseball fans in the house? What a World Series! And how about game 6 on Thursday night? Wow! Twice, in the 9th and 10th innings, St. Louis was behind and down to it’s last strike; one more strike and the game is over and Texas wins the game and the World Series. And both times the Cardinals rallied to tie the game, eventually winning it with a walk-off homer in the 11th inning. No team has ever come back from a 2-run deficit twice that late in the game! You gotta love it! The St. Louis fans did! They went wild. But fans can be fickle.
ILL: As Babe Ruth approached the end of his stellar career, he was striking out more often than getting hits, and his play had deteriorated to the point that fans often booed him. He was playing in Cincinnati one day, and after striking out, the fans booed loudly as Babe walked dejectedly back to the dugout. Suddenly a small boy, tears running down his face, ran onto the field and threw his arms around Babe’s legs. Ruth smiled at the boy, reached down and took him into his arms, talking to him as they continued to the dugout. The booing stopped, and the fans, touched by this spectacle, silently stood in tribute.
Fans can be fickle. One moment they are cheering, the next they are booing. One moment they are standing in respectful tribute; the next they are nowhere to be found. The same thing happened to Jesus: they cheered as He entered Jerusalem and five days later shouted, “Crucify Him!” Today we’re going to talk about the difference between fans and followers. Are you a fan of Jesus or a follower of Jesus?
Introduction: Jesus calls us to be whole-hearted followers, not just fans.
Dan Archer, our fabulous video guy, did a great job on that video. It was really fun filming that! There were four of us at the game, and a couple times, I’d look at the two other guys and ask, “Where’s Dan?” Once he was in the middle of the LC pre-game huddle with all the guys jumping up and down. Another time he was in the middle of the Shadle marching band. But my favorite “Where’s Dan?” moment: we saw him out at midfield with the refs and team captains for the coin toss! Once the game started, I kind of expected to see him running down the field.
Well, you saw what we’re going to talk about: Are you a fan or a follower? Before we dive into that, let’s receive our benevolence offering. Every dollar you give goes to help the needy in our church or community. We distribute this all through the year, but especially during the holidays. Thanks for being generous. (How we do it?)
Every year in the fall, I do a talk or a short series about our vision as a church. That’s what this series is: “Followers, Seekers and Owners”. For the next three Sundays, we are going to take a fresh look at what we’re doing and how we do it. I hope it will be informative and inspiring—that you’ll understand what we’re doing and want to be an owner here—that you’ll own the vision and live it.
On one side of your insert, you’ll find the outline for today’s talk. On the other side, you’ll find a summary of the key parts of our vision. Over the next three weeks we’ll be talking about each of these things.
Let’s start with our mission statement. It summarizes in 12 words what we’re about. Would you read our mission statement with me? Our mission: to honor God by helping people become whole-hearted followers of Christ. When Jesus was asked what was the greatest of the commandments, He said,
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength. And love your neighbor as yourself.” Love God and love people. That’s the greatest and most important thing you can do. And that is why our motto is “Loving God, loving people.”
But notice how we are to love God: with all we’ve got. Love God with all your heart and soul and mind and strength. This is why our mission is to help people become whole-hearted followers of Christ—with all your heart. Nothing less that full devotion. 95% devotion is 5% short!
Our mission summarizes our four guiding purposes.
Our four purposes:
Love God with all we’ve got. That’s first; that’s most important!
Win our friends to Jesus.
Grow to become all God wants us to be.
Send everyone to do God’s work in the world.
Today’s talk is about love and grow: loving God with all we’ve got and growing to become all God wants us to be. Jesus is looking for whole-hearted followers, not just fans. Are you a follower or a fan?
There is lots of discussion these days about the state of the American church. Is it dying? Is it filled with consumers of religious services rather than disciples of Jesus? Are we spectators at a religious event on Sunday or are we participating in God’s Kingdom all week long? Are we followers or fans? I am indebted to Kyle Idleman who introduced the idea of fans and followers in his provocative book, Not a Fan.
How many of you have a Facebook page? If Jesus had a Facebook page, lots of people would like Him; He would have lots of friends! Actually, I checked and Jesus does have a Facebook page and 3,184,613 people like him! Jesus has always had lots of fans. When He was on earth, He attracted large crowds, but when the going got tough, the crowds disappeared and only the followers were left. So:
1. Let’s have a DTR: are you a follower of Jesus?
How many of you know what a DTR is? Sooner or later, every couple who is romantically interested in each other has to have a DTR. What does DTR stand for? Define The Relationship. This is the official talk that happens at some point in a romantic relationship to define the level of commitment: are we dating, are we exclusive, what are we?
I think Jesus wants to have a DTR with you. Imagine sitting in a coffee shop and Jesus comes in—you know it is Him because of the blue sash. He sits down and says, “It’s time we defined this relationship.” He wants to know how you feel about him. Is the relationship exclusive? Is it just a casual weekend thing, or has it moved beyond that? What exactly is the level of your commitment? Are you a follower of Jesus?
I want you to sit with that question for a moment: are you a follower of Jesus?
Many of us automatically think, “Of course I am.” And we think of all the obvious indicators:
You go to church.
You raised your hand at the end of a sermon.
You walked forward during a 12 minute version of Just As I Am.
You own 3 or more Bibles.
You grew up going to church camp and VBS.
Your ringtone is a worship song.
You wear “witness wear”.
You kissed dating goodbye.
Under “religious views” on your Facebook page, it says “Christ follower.”
You dogged Harry Potter but loved Lord of the Rings.
You got a purpose driven life in 40 days or less.
You say, “bless their heart” before speaking badly about someone.
Am I a follower of Jesus? Well…duh!
Actually, all those things show is that you belong to the Christian subculture. But you can belong to that and still be just a fan of Jesus, not a follower. What are the differences between a fan and a follower of Jesus? Let’s take a look at a story in John 6.
A large crowd, thousands of people are listening to Jesus as He teaches near Lake Galilee. At the end of the day, Jesus decides to feed them—you know the story. He takes a small boy’s sack lunch, a Happy Meal, and feeds over 5000 men, not counting women and children! When people saw what Jesus had done, they were impressed and wanted to make him king on the spot! Imagine having a king that can multiply Happy Meals and provide free food for everyone! Awesome!
But Jesus knew what they were thinking and slipped away. The next morning, the crowd realized that Jesus wasn’t there and went looking for Him. They found Him on the far side of the lake and they asked Jesus for another Happy Meal. But Jesus makes it clear that they are looking for the wrong thing.
John 6:26–27 Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous signs. 27 But don’t be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Man can give you.”
They were looking for Jesus to get a free lunch, but Jesus says, “The buffet line is closed. You missed the point. Stop thinking about food, and start thinking about the eternal life I want to give you.”
They continued to miss the point—something that I think we’re all prone to do—and keep asking for food. So when Jesus talks about the bread of God that gives life to the world, they said, “Give us that bread every day!”
John 6:35 Jesus replied, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never be hungry again. Whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.”
This is not what they wanted to hear and the people begin to grumble. Suddenly Jesus is the only thing on the menu. They wanted real food—a Happy Meal—not some mumbo jumbo about Jesus being the bread of life. They are not happy. Rather than smoothing this out, Jesus makes it worse. He goes on to say:
John 6:53–55 “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. 54 But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. 55 For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.
That finished them off! Not only was the buffet line closed, but now Jesus is talking crazy! Eat his flesh and drink his blood! What was He thinking?
John 6:66–68 At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. 67 Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, “Are you also going to leave?” 68 Simon Peter replied, “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.
The fans deserted him. Those who wanted to make him king yesterday now walk away grumbling and unhappy.
You know what I find interesting? Jesus didn’t chase after them; He didn’t soften His message to make it more appealing. “Just kidding. Look! More Happy Meals and free ice cream too!” Jesus seemed ok with the fact that his popularity took a big hit. It wasn’t the size of the crowd that Jesus cared about; it was the level of their commitment.
This isn’t the only time something like this happened. When crowds gathered, Jesus often said things that sent people heading for home. For example, it says in:
Luke 14:25–27 A large crowd was following Jesus. He turned around and said to them, 26 “If you want to be my disciple, you must hate everyone else by comparison—your father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even your own life. Otherwise, you cannot be my disciple. 27 And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.
A big crowd follows Jesus and he starts telling them to hate their moms! That’s one way to thin out a crowd! He told them that they needed to carry their own cross. That will thin out a crowd.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his book The Cost of Discipleship, says, “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.”
That will thin out a crowd. Jesus didn’t want fans; He wanted followers.
And it wasn’t just crowds that Jesus challenged; He challenged individuals too. Think of the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-30. If Jesus was looking for a poster boy for his new movement, how about this guy? Young, rich, and so devout that he could say to Jesus, “I’ve kept all the commandments since I was a boy.” This is one righteous dude! I’m sure the disciples are all thinking, “Sign this guy up! He’ll make a great Christian!” But Jesus had a DTR with this guy. He knew that this young man was not whole-hearted, that there was one thing holding him back. “Sell all your possessions and give the money to the poor…then come follow me.” (Luke 18:22) The young man walked away sad. He couldn’t let go of his stuff. He couldn’t follow with his whole heart. He was a fan. I’m sure the disciples were thinking, “Jesus, what’s wrong with you! The dude was awesome. And we could use the cash! You should have told him to bring his money and come with us.” But Jesus isn’t looking for fans; he’s looking for followers—whole-hearted followers.
Are you a follower of Jesus? Or just a fan? How can you tell the difference?
The dictionary defines a fan as “an enthusiastic admirer”. Are fans good? Sure. We’re all fans of certain people and things—enthusiastic admirers. Everyone wants fans—we all want others to admire us. It’s not that being a fan is bad; it’s that for Jesus, it’s not enough. It falls short. You can admire Jesus—even enthusiastically—and still not follow Him. Fans are fine, but fans won’t change the world. Here are a few differences between fans and followers from our story in John 6.
Fans are in it for them, followers are in it for God. Fans want the goodies, followers want Jesus. The crowd wanted the Happy Meal, and when Jesus offered Himself, it wasn’t enough. Ask yourself, “Is Jesus enough?” For these fans, it was all about the free lunch, what Jesus could do for them. You know you’re a fan when it’s really about you—about you getting what you want. As long as Jesus delivers, you’ll stick around. It’s all about you—that’s a fan. It’s all about God—that’s a follower.
Fans come and go, followers stay. Maybe this is why Jesus was never impressed by the size of the crowds; He knew they were temporary; He knew they were fans. Fans are fickle, followers are faithful. When the fans left, Jesus turned to the disciples and asked, “What about you? Are you leaving too?” I love what Peter said. “Lord, to whom would we go? You have the words that give eternal life.” Peter is a follower—through thick and thin, he is sticking with Jesus.
Fans are sorta in, followers are all in. The crowds followed Jesus around for a day or two and then went back to their lives. But when Jesus called Peter and Andrew and James and John and Matthew, it says, “and they left everything and followed Him.” They were all in. Whole-hearted. Love the Lord your God with all your heart. There is no such thing as a “sorta follower” of Jesus; that’s just a fan.
I could go on. In his book, Not a Fan, Kyle Idleman names half a dozen differences between fans and followers, and next spring, we’re going to do a series and drill deeper on this.
But for today, I want you to honestly search your heart and ask yourself, “Am I a follower of Jesus?” Am I all in? Am I making an honest effort to love God with all I’ve got? Am I trying to live for God?
Please don’t take this lightly. Just a few weeks ago we read Matthew 7:21-23:
Matthew 7:21–23 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. 22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’ 23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’
I want you to notice that Jesus said, “On that day, many will say to me…”. Not a few, or some—many! Jesus is saying that on judgment day, many people who thought they were following Jesus will discover that they weren’t. “I never knew you,” Jesus will say. Are you following Jesus? It’s not a question to treat lightly.
I’m not trying to make you doubt your faith or whether you are a Christian. I am trying to make you think and pray and be honest before God. Am I a follower of Jesus?
It might help if I define that more. I told you the definition of a fan; what is the definition of a follower of Jesus.
2. What does a WHF look like?
Many years ago when we were first defining our mission, we realized that we needed to define what a whole-hearted follower looked like. We searched the New Testament and made a list of over 40 things that seemed to characterized follower of Jesus. Each of these seemed to fit in one of four broad categories: God, me, we, and world.
What is a whole-hearted follower of Christ?
God: I have an authentic relationship with God.
Me: I am becoming more like Christ.
We: I have healthy relationships with others.
World: I am using my gifts to serve others.
Let me break it down.
First, God. A follower has an authentic relationship with God. You love God with all you’ve got. You know God and God knows you. You talk with each other. Christianity is fundamentally relational. It is about loving God with all you’ve got and loving people. The whole thing starts here: an authentic relationship with God. You don’t just know about God, you know God, and you live with Him every day. God.
Second, me. A follower is growing and becoming more like Christ. When you get to know the Lord, the first thing that changes is you. Your character is changing. You are becoming a new and different person. God is at work in your life. You become more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, and self-controlled. God, me.
Third, we. A follower is building healthy relationships with others. Your relationship with God transforms you, and the new you has better relationships with others. You become a better husband or wife, a better mom or dad, a better friend, a better employer or employee, a better neighbor. God, me, we.
Fourth, world. A follower uses his gifts to serve other. When you have a relationship with God that transforms you and your relationships with others, you have something worth sharing. Followers understand that they are blessed to be a blessing; they are given much so that they can share much. Followers pass it on. They use what God has given them to help others follow Christ and to heal and change a broken world. They serve.
God, me, we, world. This is how we describe a whole-hearted follower. Does this sound like something you want? So how do you become one?
3. How do you become a WHF?
The short answer is, by the grace of God! We turn to God in humble surrender and faith. We let Him forgive us and ask Him to work in our lives. And we begin to follow. It is a process, a life, a relationship, a journey. There is a big difference between making a decision for Jesus and actually following Jesus. You can make a decision in a moment, but following takes a lifetime. Both are important. You have to make the decision to start. But many people don’t seem to move beyond that. We want to help you make the decision, and then live the life—actually follow Jesus every day.
We have five things that we encourage people to do who want to grow spiritually.
How we grow spiritually:
Meet together in church and a Life Group.
Seek God in daily prayer, Bible reading, journaling.
Serve others in our church and community.
Give to God’s work in our church and to the poor.
Share your faith with your friends.
These are five things we do to know God better and to grow as followers of Christ. I’ll talk more about these in two weeks. All I want to say today is, look at the list and ask yourself what you’re doing and what you’re not? Where do you need to step it up? Are you following or coasting? Are you all in? I’ll finish with this:
ILL: Kyle Idleman tells a story about a young man in his church. Before meeting Jesus, his life consisted of, in his words, “going out, drinking, smoking pot, and chasing girls.”
But when he met Jesus, this guy did a 180 and went all in. One day, he asked if Kyle would meet with him and his mom. Kyle knew that his mom went to another church in town. He assumed that she wanted to thank him for the change in her son’s life. But she didn’t. She was upset with Kyle and the church and her son. “He’s taken all this too far,” she said. She wasn’t pleased with all the time he spent at church, or that he was passing out CD’s of the sermons, or that he was giving some of his hard earned money to the church, or that he was talking about going on a mission trip. Frustrated, she asked, “Can you please tell him that the Bible teaches ‘everything in moderation’? Can you please tell him that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing?”
Kyle pointed out that Jesus never said, “everything in moderation.” He did say, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”
Followers are all in. With all your heart.